Once upon a time, almost every movie – no matter how big or expensive – was expected to make the majority of it’s box office take in its home country, with international sales regarded as a “bonus” due in no small part to the added costs of translating, shipping and (in some cases) re-editing a film for multiple audiences in different languages and cultures. But these days, the most successful films are the ones that can easily reach the biggest worldwide audience possible; hence why Hollywood often goes out of its way to tailor marketing for different regions.
Few recent films have illustrated this better than the dual debut of domestic and “international” trailers for Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which launched more or less simultaneously last night to ecstatic excitement among fans the world over. Let’s explore the differences between the two trailers, and why they may have been cut that way.
Right off the bat, the main most obvious difference between the two trailers is that the domestic version is very much devoted to letting us know that this new incarnation of Spider-Man would be keeping Peter Parker in high school for as long as possible. It puts a significant emphasis on his day-to-day teenage life, focusing just as much (if not more) on his relationship with his extended cast of peers and mentor-figures as it does on superheroics. As such, almost its full first half is framed more as a typical American High School comedy (complete with teen awkwardness and school-monotony montages set to an upbeat alt-pop song).
The “international” trailer, on the other hand, jettisons any reference to this major other half of the film that isn’t intimately tied-in with the more typical action-trailer stuff. Fight scenes, effects shots, bad guy close-ups and as many shots of Robert Downey Jr.’s cameo appearance as can be spread out across the length of the trailer to give the appearance that he’s playing a major supporting role here (maybe he is, but the way it’s been cut he could just as easily have 2-3 scenes with multiple one-liners). This makes a certain amount of sense, as the notion of “superhero fatigue” has been less widely commented upon in regions like South America and all-important China, which means less incentive to cut an action-light trailer in order to spotlight what will make this one “fresh;” but it also likely has to do with other cultures being presumed to not share U.S. audience’s nostalgic connection to the kind of mid-1990s teen comedy (think She’s All That or Ten Things I Hate About You) being clearly referenced by the domestic trailer.
EVERYBODY’S A COMEDIAN
The easiest way to tell a domestic trailer from and international one, typically? Look for a distinct lack of verbal humor in the international version. Language-based comedy is one of the hardest things to translate between languages either through dubbing or subtitles, and there’s not guarantee a pun or one-liner is going to land properly in an out-of-context promotional clip.
As such, it’s not too surprising that the international Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer disposes of almost all of the jokes, with the exceptions being the line Spidey himself delivers during scenes shared in both versions (see below) and any of the dialogue uttered by Tony Stark – whose by-now familiar smart-alecky delivery transcends language barriers. Also missing from the international version? The peppy song that accompanied the now-missing high school shots, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background gag placing a headshot of Dr. Bruce “The Hulk” Banner among a lineup of famous scientists in one of Peter’s classrooms.
So what does the international Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer plug into the spaces where teen comedy hijinks and female characters with names and voices used to be? Villains. Villains everywhere.
There are several more shots of Michael Keaton’s Vulture, certainly. But eagle-eyed fans can also spot an opponent using powered gauntlets to shove things around (best guess: The Shocker, whose potential presence was previously leaked). There’s also a brief shot of a figure striding toward the camera in silhouette whose swaggering physique and furry-looking collar have already been posited to suggest longtime Spider-Man foe “Kraven The Hunter” (whose traditional costume include a vest made from the head and mane of an African lion) – though it could just as easily be a wingless version of Keaton as Vulture, as his armored suit features the comics version’s signature feathered buzzard-crest. Interestingly, the international trailer omits a shot from the domestic featuring actor Donald Glover and a bearded figure testing(?) a high-tech laser weapon that fires purple energy bursts (repurposed Chitauri technology, perhaps). It does, however, show Vulture using a similar (or the same?) weapon to destroy the Staten Island Ferry.
One possibility: The four criminals wearing Avengers Halloween masks Spidey apprehends early in both trailers could be gifted high-tech implements and become a four-man villain team: Vulture, Shocker and two more.
(NOT) LOST IN TRANSLATION
Of course, for all of those fairly significant differences, the “big” business is largely the same in both trailers: Spider-Man beating down four bank robbers wearing tacky Avengers masks? Present. Spider-Man leaping off the Washington Monument (noteworthy: A trip to Washington D.C. means this will be the first Spider-Man movie other than his cameo in Captain America: Civil War to feature any scenes of Peter Parker outside New York City) to deploy his new web-wings? In both versions. Every scrap of footage they could get their hands on remotely related to Tony Stark? You’d better believe it. Characters mentioning The Avengers either directly or indirectly? Plentiful. The two big climactic money-shots i.e. Spider-Man holding the two halves of the ferry together with webbing and Iron Man flying alongside the webslinger? Basically identical in both versions.
Which trailer is more representative of the finished film, though? Well, probably both of them. The buzz on Homecoming has, for awhile, been that the movie would put much more screentime and narrative emphasis on Peter’s personal/school life than previous incarnations did; but it’s unlikely that either Marvel or Sony plans to release a film with a paucity of action either. Most likely, the action will be every bit as big and omnipresent as in the international trailer while also attempting to deliver a story as personal as suggested by the domestic version – and if they can pull that off, Marvel may have yet another hit on their hands.